By Lisa Shifren, JCS Holocaust Survivor Specialist
I have been working with Holocaust survivors since 2003. They are some of the sweetest, most resilient people that I have ever met. During this time of quarantine, I call them once a week to see how they are doing, make sure they have food and supplies, and invite them to try some virtual connecting via zoom like our new online chair yoga class. Aside from asking me how I am doing and if my family is healthy, we talk about the stressors, as well as the positives of our current situation.
Here are some of their words of wisdom that they have given me permission to share with you:
- “Thanks to my parents (A’H) and Hashem, we survived the Holocaust. We came to America in 1949. My brother and I grew up in Baltimore. We married and have children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Had we not come to America, none of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren would be here.”
- “The Coronavirus has brought together many wonderful family and friends via phone and Zoom. They check in frequently to see how we are doing and to go shopping for those who cannot leave their home. We also have the pleasure of being associated with JCS and Lisa Shifren, who provides many fine programs for Holocaust survivors and their spouses.”
- “The coronavirus reminds me of the Holocaust during World War II. We were petrified for our lives trying to escape from the Nazis. Our enemy during World War II was Hitler and his army killed too many. Our enemy today is the coronavirus, which can kill.”
- “People who were not in concentration camps, were in hiding to survive. Today, we are also hiding from the enemy to survive, and we are alone because we cannot be with our families. During the war, food was hard to find. We had to wait in line just to have some bread. Today, we go to the markets and find that supplies are limited.”
- “Our wish today, is to have the virus leave us as soon as possible. Scientists must develop a vaccine before we lose too many people. We lost six million during the holocaust. We do not want to live through that nightmare again. Let us pray to G-d to help remove the virus forever. May G-d bless everyone and give us much health and happiness.”
- “You learn to make the best of it. You take it in stride. It could be a lot worse.”
- “There is a lot to do and a lot to think about.”
- “What God arranges, that’s what he wants, that’s what he gets.”
- “I have a lot of hobbies – reading, knitting, jigsaw puzzles. During the war, we had to be resourceful on how to entertain ourselves. There was a shortage, but we adapted and we learned and managed.”
- “It could be a lot worse.”
- “Look for a silver lining wherever clouds are blue. Remember somewhere the sun will be shining for me and for you.”
- “Soon is a short word and it takes forever to get there.”
- “Don’t get married…” (jokes one of the survivors who has been married now for 65 years) “and never go to bed angry. If you can find humor that’s the main thing, and if you can find a wife like mine you are lucky.”
I have learned a lot from working with this group over the years! Be well and safe.
Lisa Shifren is a JCS Holocaust Survivor Specialist
JCS provides multiple services and supports to Holocaust Survivors and their families in the Baltimore community, with the primary goal to allow Holocaust Survivors to remain in their homes and within their communities as they age.
Lisa has facilitated the Baltimore Holocaust survivor social club since 2003 and has been photographing the Baltimore survivors since 2007. She has created a body of work titled “Grace. Dignity. Humility. Compassion: The Holocaust Survivors of Baltimore,” which has been exhibited in galleries and schools. This exhibition contains portraits, biographies, and old photos of the survivors when they were young. To see these portraits up close, visit www.lisashifren.com.